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Solar Energy UK releases new manifesto ahead of July election

“Britain needs a government that fully embraces solar so we can reap the benefits for our economy, people and environment.”

These are the thoughts of Solar Energy UK chief executive, Chris Hewett, speaking about the launch of the trade association’s new Solar & Energy Storage Manifesto.

The document sets out a series of actions it wants the next government to take in order to overcome challenges and ‘light the way to our renewable energy future’.

“There is a global race to deliver clean power, not only to solve the climate crisis, but also to bring secure, affordable energy for all. The solar energy sector is now leading that race worldwide and Britain needs a government that fully embraces solar so we can reap the benefits for our economy, people and environment,” Chris said.

“As someone who cares deeply about this issue, I was heartened to see polling from Climate Barometer showing that most people identify climate and environment as one of their top five issues as they head to the ballot box, but I’m sure people hope this is not an issue the election is fought over.

“Data from the last two years clearly shows that public levels of support for action have not dropped. In light of all the challenges we face as a country, a cost-of-living crisis and soaring energy bills, the nation understands the future of energy security is renewable. The next government must keep leading the way on this policy consensus, and empower industry to deliver it here, in the United Kingdom.

“The investment appetite is there, at all scales, but there are challenges which must be overcome, and this is where the government can make a real difference.”

Solar capacity set to reach 20GW this year

The UK’s solar capacity is set to reach around 20GW by the end of this year, together with 8GW of energy storage.

Solar Energy UK believes this needs to increase to 50GW of solar and 30GW of zero carbon energy storage by 2030. This would be in line with current government targets of 70GW solar by 2035. The National Infrastructure Commission recommends that the UK should have 60GW of short-term energy flexibility by 2035 to balance the variable nature of wind and solar.

The association wants to see a roadmap for solar published within the first 100 days of the next government, based on work already undertaken by the Solar Taskforce.

There are five actions highlighted in the manifesto which Solar Energy UK says are needed to achieve the solar targets.

Action 1: Embracing UK Solar

An inconsistent planning system and lack of joined-up thinking on the symbiotic relationship between energy security, food security and restoring nature are barriers to us fully embracing solar, the manifesto says.

Consistency is needed in the delivery of planning decisions. Failing to respect established national policy has led to solar planning refusals being overturned more than any other kind of development – which is bad for investment, bad for the taxpayer and needlessly extending our reliance on fossil fuels.

The next government has an opportunity to send a positive signal through swift decisions on three nationally significant infrastructure projects, which together come to well over a gigawatt.

Action 2: Bringing the benefits of solar and storage to new homes

While rooftop solar is popular, with over 1.5m small-scale installs now in place, there is still a role for government in ensuring that solar and storage technologies are available for low-income households and communities that want to invest in their own projects.

Building standards must also be overhauled urgently, while peer-to-peer energy trading must be enabled to allow schools, community projects and businesses to buy and sell power locally.

Solar in new buildings is more efficient and cheaper to install than retrofit and could result in energy bill savings of up to £2,120 per year.

Action 3: Turbo-charging the network for net zero

The biggest obstacle to rapid expansion of solar and energy storage, of all scales, is constraints on the transmission and distribution of electricity networks. The next government should lead the way on the following areas:

  • Ensure Ofgem rules allow greater and faster investment for network infrastructure
  • Improve and standardise the service between the network operators and renewable developers to speed up the connections process
  • Modernise the grid management practices to be fit for purpose for solar, storage, wind and demand side management

Action 4: Building skills for British green jobs

The next government should work with industry to promote job opportunities in the clean energy transition, as thousands of new roles will be created by renewable energy over the next decade.

This should include the establishment of a network of green skills hubs across the UK where a range of clean and low carbon technologies can be taught, investment in training and more resources to enable the upskilling of planners and networks professionals.

Action 5: Implementing a renewables-first approach to market reform

The UK must not fall behind EU, US, China, India and others in the global race for clean energy investment.

More than 11GW of solar capacity is approved and awaiting construction. But the current budget allocation for Allocation Round 6 of the Contracts for Difference scheme will facilitate the development of less than 2GW, putting targets at risk.

The next government should also ensure that the Electricity Generator Levy, the Capacity Market, Balancing Mechanisms and the Review of Electricity Market Arrangements (REMA) attracts investment in clean energy, with storage and flexibility to provide backup.

Chris added: “The renewable energy transition is not only a climate imperative, but the economic prize for seizing the opportunity is significant. Not one technology alone can provide the energy security we need to insulate us from international shocks, but a diverse mix, including solar and battery storage will lead us to this goal.

“I believe these five actions will give the UK solar and energy storage industry what it needs to deliver for citizens by bringing their energy bills down, creating new jobs, and lifting the wider economy.”

What do you think? Do you agree with the suggested actions? Let us know by emailing linda@renewableenergyinstaller.co.uk.

Image credit: Solar Energy UK.